After giving his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes to the city of Capernaum. Here some elders of the Jews approach him. They have been sent by a man of a different background
The army officer’s beloved servant is seriously ill and about to die. Though the centurion is a Gentile, he is seeking Jesus’ help. The Jews tell Jesus that the man’s servant “is laid up in the house with paralysis, and he is suffering terribly,” perhaps being in great pain. (Matthew 8:6) The Jewish elders assure Jesus that this centurion is worthy of being granted this help, explaining: “He loves our nation and he himself built our synagogue.”
Soon, Jesus leaves with the elders for the army officer’s house. As they near it, the officer sends out friends to say: “Sir, do not bother, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you.” (Luke 7:6, 7) What a humble expression from someone used to giving orders! And it shows how different this man is from Romans who treat slaves harshly.
The centurion no doubt is aware that Jews avoid fellowshipping with non-Jews. (Acts 10:28) Perhaps with this in mind, the officer has his friends urge Jesus: “Say the word, and let my servant be healed.”
Jesus is amazed to hear this and comments: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found so great a faith.” (Luke 7:9) On returning to the centurion’s house, his friends discover that the slave who was so ill is now in good health.
Once Jesus has performed that healing, he uses the occasion to confirm that non-Jews of faith will be favored with blessings, saying: “Many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens.” What about faithless Jews? Jesus says that they “will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.”
Hence, natural Jews who do not accept the opportunity offered first to them to be part of the Kingdom with Christ will be rejected. But Gentiles will be welcomed to recline at his table, as it were, “in the Kingdom of the heavens.”